Monday, August 17, 2009

Dirty Secret No. 2 in Obamacare

By Chuck Norris

I've read on several blogs that if Chuck Norris' tears can cure cancer, he should take care of universal health care. Cute.

The real fact is that neither I nor Obamacare (in its present form in any of the 1,000+ page versions like H.R. 3200) can provide the remedy.

In my last column I explained that dirty secret No. 1 in Obamacare is that the House bill grants government the authority to come into homes and usurp parental rights over child care development.

I have a few more secrets to share over these hot August political nights.

Dirty secret No. 2 in Obamacare is that Obama is not the leader of Obamacare. And neither is Congress. The one who has been spearheading the initiative behind the scenes is one who goes under the misnomer "adviser" to the Obama administration, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a bioethicist and breast oncologist and brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. And "his bible" for health care reform is his book, "Healthcare Guaranteed."

Dr. Emanuel has served as special adviser to the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget for health policy as far back as February, when he confessed to the Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times that he was "working on (the) health care reform effort." The first draft of Obamacare?

If you want to know the future of America's universal health care, then you must understand the health care principles and plans of Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel. I find it far more than coincidence how much Dr. Emanuel's book parallels Obamacare's philosophy, strategy and legislation.

First, Dr. Emanuel rejects any attempts at incremental change or reform to our health care system (Page 185). What's needed, he concludes in his book (p. 171), is an immediate and totally comprehensive reconstruction of health care as we know it. That of course describes the vision of Obamacare to a tee.

Second, in the chapter "Opening the door to comprehensive change" starting on p. 171 (which reads more like a political and mass-manipulating strategy than a health care manual), Emanuel drives home "a key political lesson: the need to rush the legislation through." (Seen this methodology being used lately?!)

He then cites historical proof: "Within a few months, President Johnson rammed the four central elements of his Great Society program through," and Medicare and Medicaid were born. Emanuel says that the reason the Clinton administration couldn't pass a health care bill was because it waited too long (after his inauguration – the political honeymoon period) and it "established a large task force that worked in secret. … The delay and the secrecy were deadly" (p. 181). Sounds to me that Dr. Emanuel is as much a political strategist as he is a doctor.

You are bearing witness to these political principles at work at this very moment in Washington and across this nation with Obamacare. President Obama and Dr. Emanuel both know that if too much time elapses their legislation is likely to die (and their preferences with it) because Americans will actually have time to examine it and come up with better alternatives.

Third, as Obama crusades around the country pitching Obamacare, he continues to avoid giving virtually any specific details of the program. That too is a strategy of Dr. Emanuel: "Americans need to avoid the policy weeds. Focusing on details will only distract and create tangles and traps" (p. 183). So "details" of health care reform are "weeds"? That is why we continue to hear only warm-and-fuzzy generalities from Obama like,"If you've got health care, the only thing we're going to do is we're going to reform the insurance companies so that they can't cheat you."

Fourth, Dr. Emanuel describes a comprehensive government health care program that is completely run by a national health board with 12 regional health boards ("modeled on the Federal Reserve system" – p. 83).

Imagine a national health board with the power of the Federal Reserve?! Imagine them doing with medicine and health what the Fed does with interest rates and the financial system. An apolitical board like that sounds appealing at first, until it is immune in ways (like the Federal Reserve) to congressional protocol and oversight. Once these boards are in place, like the Federal Reserve system over our financial system, they will have absolute power over the ebbs and flows of the medical world.

Critics would say, "But that is not the national board as described in Obamacare or H.R. 3200." Not yet anyway. Of course, Obamacare uses much softer language for describing a national board – they call it the "Health Benefits Advisory Committee" (there's that "advisory" word again!), which would be under the executive branch (like the Federal Reserve).

Does anyone doubt that the duties and power of the Health Benefits Advisory Committee will morph and grow over time? And what liberties and controls will they have 10 years from now? I have a hunch they will be very reflective of the power of the Federal Reserve – I'll let you guess why.

Fifth, Dr. Emanuel believes in the "phasing out of Medicare and Medicaid" (Pages 88-89, 94-95). Of course, no proposed legislative wording by the current administration is going to describe the eventual elimination of these programs, at least in these incipient stages – remember, this bill is a sales pitch, too. But what stops the "Health Benefits Advisory Committee" care from "phasing them out" down the road? Could their eventual termination be the reason this administration won't merely reform those programs to accommodate their universal health care desires? But then again, maybe you believe Obama when he "avoids the policy weeds" by saying, "Nobody is talking about trying to change Medicare benefits. What we want to do is to eliminate some of the waste that is being paid for out of the Medicare trust fund."

Sixth, Dr. Emanuel believes in ending employer-based health care (Pages 109-112). President Obama knows that to propose such a restriction on American freedoms and choice would mean certain death to this legislation, let alone likely his popularity as president. However, throughout all Obama's rhetoric about how Americans will have the choice of health care insurance, they will have little choice in the matter, especially when employers are footing the bill. As any businessman knows, why would a company pay the exorbitant costs for employees' private health care insurance when they can benefit big time from a free ticket for government health care coverage? Some have even proposed that provisions in the House's health care legislation, under the titles "Limitation of New Enrollment" and "Limitation on Changes in Terms or Conditions" (p. 16), could essentially make individual private medical insurance illegal.

Seventh, Dr. Emanuel believes a universal health care program could be paid for by phasing out Medicare and Medicaid, adopting a value-added tax of at least 10 percent, etc., and then allowing Americans themselves to "pay extra with after-tax dollars" (p. 100) for additional medical benefits (beyond the norm of the government program). Ironically, Obamacare proposes cutting $500 billion from Medicare and proposing taxes upon the wealthy, as just a couple ways to pay for the $1 trillion it will cost to run the new national health care program over 10 years. But even the Congressional Budget Office says that won't be near enough.

Just last week at a Montana town hall meeting, the president continued to struggle to explain how he would pay for Obamacare without taxing the middle class. Of course, three of his top advisers (Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers and White House senior adviser David Axlrod) have already gone on the record saying they will not rule out the need for a middle-class tax hike to pay for Obamacare.

The truth is, whether the money comes from higher corporate taxes, taxing employer-provided health insurance, eliminating health savings accounts or flexible spending accounts, limiting the deductibility of medical expenses, increasing taxes on selective consumptives, etc., or all the above, trust me, sooner or later, we all will pay.

Eighth, speaking of ethics, enough has been written lately about Dr. Emanuel's end-of-life counsel and consultation, including his advice from The Hastings Center Report (1996) that medical care should be withheld from those "who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens. ... An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia."

I find it striking that Obama's ethics have similarly allowed him already to pass more laws increasing the terminations of life in the womb than any administration since Roe v. Wade. To add insult to injury, Congress has repeatedly rejected amendments to this universal health care bill that would prevent federal funds to be used for abortions.

Friends, if you don't think Dr. Emanuel's and President Obama's "life ethics" will bear out in the practice of the policies within their future universal health care program, I have a London bridge to sell you in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. Obama was telling the truth about this campaign promise: His presidency would provide "the most sweeping ethics reform in history." I guess more Americans should have been watching which way he was sweeping.

In short, whether in title or not, Dr. Emanuel is Obama's health care czar. Obamacare is a junior version of Emanuel-care, or should I say the beginning stage of Emanuel-care. What's almost eerie is how they both could be juxtaposed to intersect in full bloom sometime in America's future.

One last thing: Someone once said to me, "If two people think so much alike, you can bet that one person is not thinking." Think about it.

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